This biographical article has been written by Author, Film historian, Music lover and our mentor Arunkumar Deshmukh ji. We thank him for writing it and highlighting the career of the yesteryear composer.
In our film industry, many aspirants come to Bombay with a dream in their eyes. They are ready to do hard work. However, in an industry like films, hard work alone does not help. What you require is Good Luck. Without this many artistes came here, did a little work and disappeared. We do not find any information about such artistes, except their name and work details from HFGK. One such artiste was VASANT KUMAR NAIDU, Music Director.
In the case of music director Vasant Kumar Naidu, no information is available in any book or on the internet. Only Pankaj Raag wrote about his films and songs in his book ‘Dhunon Ki Yatra’. This too is based on HFGK only.
Luckily Ms. Sai Lakshmi and Mr. Krishna Kumar Naidu, niece and nephew of Vasant Kumar Naidu visited and left some comments on an article . I picked up this slender lead and wrote to both of them. It is to their credit and my luck that both responded promptly . They tried to provide song and film information from different sites, which I already knew. After exchanging a few mails, they sent me a newspaper cutting, announcing the passing away of Vasant Kumar Naidu, along with his photo and a copy of his death certificate. Krishna Kumar ji also gave me some information about his family. I can understand their limitations. Naidu ji died in 1951. At that time these two were very young and now there may not be any other elder who may provide information about this artist.
Anyway, earlier I had zero information, now at least I have some information about him, plus his filmography as per the HFGK. I sincerely thank Ms. Sai Lakshmi ji and Shri Krishna Kumar Naidu ji for their help.
Vasant Kumar was born on 5-6-1915. His family had settled in Burma like thousands of other South Indian families. When Burma was struggling for independence, in the 1930s, most Indians left Burma and came to India. Many went to Calcutta and many went to South India. Many families walked for around 6 months from Burma to India. Mr.Vasant Kumar’s family was one amongst them. They walked from Rangoon to Madras. The family settled in Madras for some years.
Vasant Kumar had come alone to Bombay earlier in search of a career in music. He was an instrumentalist and could play any string instruments and also harmonium. He was also very much interested in reading different languages. There were many books that he read. He was also very keen on dressing up and had several suits in those days. He joined the industry and started growing as a Music Director. He then called his mother and other siblings to live with him in Mumbai along with his eldest brother’s widow and her son. He had 4 brothers. His eldest brother expired in Madras itself. Vasant Kumar was the second eldest. He had two younger brothers as well. They all lived on Peddar Road initially. Later, he left his Peddar Road flat and moved to Parel.
Vasant Kumar thereafter lived in Parel until his passing away on 16-10-1951.
Vasant Kumar got married in Madras. This marriage was arranged by his mother. Eventually his other brothers also got married. All three brothers and their wives stayed under the same roof in Parel in a joint family which was headed and supported monetarily by Vasant Kumar ji. His younger brother, the late Mr. Pandurang Naidu was also working towards a career in music. He became a musician (played banjo and mandolin). Vasant Kumar ji taught several string instruments to his brother, Pandurang ji. His youngest brother, the late Mr. Sreenivasn Naidu, became a composer at a later stage of his life for the Indian Railways Music Academy (Central Railway Cultural Academy).
Vasant Kumar is survived by his only daughter, Mrs. Pramila Naidu, who is now a widow. She lives in Pune with her grown up children. Pramila ji was around 5 years old when her father passed away. She has vague memories of her father. It is sad to see her struggling now financially. She continues to give tuition at the age of 70 to make her living. She lawfully owns 3 flats in Parel, Mumbai but the 3rd generation of the family has occupied these flats and are not willing to vacate. This property is now worth in crores. The cousins of Pramila ji have gotten together and have filed a lawsuit against these 3rd generation greedy family members. The lawsuit has been going on now for the past 3 years.
When luck is not in your favour, any amount of hard work, efforts or support from influential persons does not work. This is amply proved by what happened in Naidu’s case. Naidu, before starting as an independent composer and even later, for some time, was an assistant to Anil Biswas. To help Naidu establish, Anilda sometimes used to put a word to known people for him as M.D.
Anilda knew Harishchandra Rao kadam very well. When he decided to become a Producer and make a film “Sukhi Jeevan”, Anilda met him and took a promise from him to make Naidu the MD for that film.
Harishchandra Rao wanted Master Bhagwan as the film’s Director. Bhagwan agreed but put a condition that C.Ramchandra be made the MD for this film. Rao told him about Anilda and the promise given for Naidu. Bhagwan refused his film if C.Ramchandra was not made MD. To solve this problem, Anilda was called and after discussing with all, he withdrew his demand for Naidu. Thus Naidu lost and C.Ramchandra got his first Hindi film ” Sukhi Jeevan”-42 , to start his career ! ( from the book ” Ek Albela” by Isak Mujawar).
Vasant Kumar started his career in 1939 by giving music to films ‘Thunder’ and ‘Pakke Badmash’. Till 1947, he composed music for 22 films, as per the HFGK. He sang 1 song as a duet with Khan Mastana for the film ‘Mere Sajan’ (1941). He has composed 160 songs in these 22 films. His filmography, as per the Geet Kosh, is ‘Thunder’ (1939), ‘Pakke Badmash’ (1939), ‘Rangeela Jawaan’ (1940), ‘Jung-e-Azadi’ (1940), ‘Desh Bhakt’ (1940), ‘Suhaana Geet’ (1941), ‘Meri Khwaish’ (1941), ‘Mere Saajan’ (1941), ‘Lehri Jawaan’ (1941), ‘Lala ji’ (1942), ‘Call Of Youth’ (1942), ‘Maata’ (1942), ‘Watan Ki Pukaar’ (1943), ‘Nai Zindagi’ (1943), ‘Mohabbat Ki Jeet (1943), ‘Daawat’ (1943), ‘Circus Girl’ (1943), ‘Bhaagta Bhoot’ (1943), ‘Beda Paar’ (1944), ‘Shaahi Khazaana’ (1946), ‘Chamkati Bijli’ (1946) and ‘Toote Dil’ (1947).
Unfortunately, Vasant Kumar got mostly B and C stunt and action films for composing the music. Big banners like National Studios gave him an opportunity with the film ‘Lala ji’ (1942), in which he got many songs sung by Anil Biswas, Kusum Mantri, and Vatsala Kumthekar. However such films came to him only as an exception, therefore his exposure to audiences was limited and his name did not gain any fame. Actually, many big, well known and popular singers have sung for him.
However, without a mentor, God Father or the support of a big banner, it became impossible for Vasant Kumar to grow further. During the transition period of 1947-48, when many composers migrated to Pakistan, the existing big composers made their positions solid. Thus smaller composers never got any opportunity to benefit from the void created by the exit of composers. This was the case of many small-time composers like him.